Bianca Bosker is my new hero. She quit her tech journalism job to learn about wine. Not just learn about it, but to learn as much as any one human can about wine in a year and a half. She made the leap from writing at a computer all day to being a cellar rat, stocking the wine cellar of a high end New York City restaurant. She went from doing computer research all day to going to wine tastings in the morning. She made sacrifices: coffee, mouthwash, scented detergent. All to become a certified sommelier.
Cork Dork is the story of Bosker's journey from wine nerd to expert. Through months of relentless reading and memorization, she found out that she could learn the subtleties of the grapes used throughout Europe, to be able to pinpoint a wine's home to within a few miles based only a tasting. She had expert somms teach her how to spit out the wine. She went to one of the top professionals in the perfume industry to learn how to differentiate scents. She wrangled her way into being a guest judge at the TopSomm competition in order to see the top sommeliers in the country do battle.
It is crazy what sommeliers put themselves through in order to chase the flavors of wine. Some of the advice Bosker got while she was learning: take yoga to breathe better, to better smell the wine. Make yourself flashcards (they often has thousands of them, and one somm would use them to test herself on her ride to work each day. She rode a bike to work). Read books. Put maps of France up in your shower. Eat dirt. (Seriously, one somm told her to taste the soil wherever she went. I have to admit that one was my favorite). And while she may not have tried all of these, Bosker certainly went beyond what is rational in her quest to be a top wine expert.
Written with an honest and playful style, and justifiably compared to Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential or anything by Mary Roach, Cork Dork is a truly lovely collection of obsessions and stories, of humor and pathos, as Bianca Bosker takes us through all the flaming hoops it takes to become a sommelier. The characters she meets (and they truly are characters, who come to life under her scrutiny and inquiry) and the places she discovers take us all on the wine adventure of a lifetime; and drinkers or not, all of us who take the journey with her will find our lives take on a richness and depth because of the tidbits we pick up along the way.
Galleys for Cork Dork were provided by the publisher through NetGalley.com.